Truman Head: California Joe
In the spring of 1861 a wave of patriotism was sweeping the north in response to President Lincoln's call for volunteers to fight for the Union. One person who felt the call was Hiram Berdan.
Berdan, an engineer, inventor and one of the best marksmen in the United States, believed that he could raise a contingent of the best rifle shots from each of the loyal northern states.
After receiving approval from General Winfield Scott, Berdan went about the task of recruitment. So many volunteers came forward that the First Regiment was soon filled. The regiment was divided into 10 companies. One of the companies, Company C, was organized in the state of Michigan on August 21, 1861. The company was mustered into Federal service in late September, at the Sharpshooters' Camp at Weehawken, New Jersey. From there the company went to the Camp of Instruction, located north of Washington, D.C. It was there that the Sharpshooters were to receive the uniforms that would earn them the nickname "Green Coats".
Truman Head of Company C of the First Regiment was unquestionably the most famous among Berdan's Sharpshooters.
Nicknamed "California Joe", "Old Californy", and "Old California," Joe came west from New York to seek his fortune after a failed romance. Joe was 52 years old at the time he enlisted, but stated his age as 42, otherwise he would have been rejected. Joe brought to the sharpshooters a background of a hunter and gold miner which could have made enough fodder for interesting news stories but Joe was found to have a keen eye and a great marksman without any embellishments by the press. Joe's image and his exploits made for good reading in a time where the Union was sorely lacking heroes and good news from the war.
One of the greatet impacts Joe had on the Sharpshooters themselves was his private purchase of a Sharps rifle. It may have been Joes experience that made them want their own Sharps' as well. Sadly, Joes time in the sharpshooters was quite limited. His age caught up with him and his sight was starting to fail him. Joe was discharged November 4,1862 for "senility and impaired vision."
Joe returned to California and became a customs inspector in San Francisco. He died November 24,1874.
While Truman Head is well known for his exploits, he is not alone in heading East and being a member of Berdan's Sharpshooters.
Two men, Pvt. Sexton Williams and Pvt. Daniel Buckingham, left California and became members of Company F of the Second Regiment, but for different reasons than those of Old California. Both men deserted from the Second Regt. California Infantry and went East and were sent to the Sharpshooters after surrendering themselves. Buckingham died shortly after going on leave following the Gettysburg campaign and Williams died during the siege of Petersburg.
The Mammoth Book of Life Before the Mast:
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Firsthand accounts of the real-life naval adventures behind the popular historical sagas of Patrick O'Brian and C. F. Forester. Twenty true-life adventures capture the glory and gore of the great age of naval warfare from the late eighteenth to the early nineteenth century -- the age of the French Revolutionary War, the Napoleonic Wars, and the War of 1812 -- when combat at sea was won by sheer human wit, courage, and endurance. Culled from memoirs, diaries, and letters of celebrated officers as well as sailors, the collection includes accounts of such decisive naval engagements as Admiral Horatio Nelson's on the Battle of the Nile in 1798 or Midshipman Roberts' on the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and also offers glimpses into daily hardships aboard a man-of-war: scurvy, whippings, storms, piracy, press gangs, drudgery, boredom, and cannibalism.
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Chamier went to sea in 1809 as an officer in the Royal Navy. Like his contemporary, Captain Frederick Marryat, he enjoyed a successful literary career and is remembered for his naval novels. This book, his first, is usually catalogued as fiction, although it is an exact account of his naval experiences, with every individual, ship, and event he described corroborated by his service records. Told with humor and insight, it is considered an authentic account of a young officer's service. From anti-slavery patrols off Africa to punitive raids on the American coast during the War of 1812, Chamier provides details of many lesser-known campaigns. His descriptions of British naval operations in America, which reflected his objection to bringing the war to the civilian population, were highly criticized by his seniors.
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The Astonishing History of the Confederacy's Secret Navy
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